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Posted By: Ken Dombroski on: 05/29/2002 01:21:20 CDT
Subject: After Action Report – SCARD in Northern California

Message Detail:
Well, we finally got the beginnings of a signal party going out here. Two recruits joined me during the National Civil War Association’s reenactment and living history at Ardenwood Farm in Fremont this last weekend. Together we put on a credible show for the public and worked on some signal basic training in camp. Battlefield terrain was terrible – flat, with ploughed fields and an orchard. It was tough to read each other’s signals, especially with all the cavalry and artillery horses in the area. My 8 ft. poles did not quite cut it, so next time out I may try a couple of 12 footers if the terrain is as bad. We concentrated on very simple preconcerted signals to deploy the infantry and artillery forward. Basic communications, but they did work. We’re slowly laying the groundwork for a more involved impression. By the way, horses and signal flags do not mix very well in close proximity, as our battery commander reminded me after a gust of wind caught my flag and his horse startled and almost dumped him.

Field signal station: We used a basic dog tent with two 6 foot poles, a ridge pole, and ropes to create a fly near the brigade HQ. Gear is stored in a small teak chest with brass fittings, and a small table with a gray blanket to display signal gear for the public. My smaller telescope is rigged onto a period tripod. Signal flags are prominently displayed when not in use for practice. Not a big show, but in keeping with our brigade’s policy of having a campaign camp.

Field expedient signal case: We’re still in the crawl stage, so daylight signal equipment only until we can fabricate some torches and the regulation signal carrying kit. I discovered that the natural canvas rifle case sold by Fall Creek makes a pretty fair carrying case for the signal flags and poles. It holds up to 8 pole sections and four flags. I attach an old canvas canteen sling around it and presto – a field expedient signal case.

Field station of observation: Our brigade commander uses me to go forward and observe the Confederate positions just prior to the battle to give him some basic intelligence on the enemy order of battle. As the battle develops, I continue to observe the enemy movements and report significant changes. During one battle, he used me to keep an eye on a tree line along an exposed right flank. I was able to detect Reb skirmishers moving through the woods attempting to get behind our gun line. Using some basic short-range arm and hand signals, I signaled to our mounted cavalry, who charged them several times until they retreated.

There are still a few skeptics who don’t have any use for us (then again these types don’t see any use in artillery impressions), but we are making ourselves useful. We get loads of complements from the troops, and quite a few spectators stop us and ask us to explain how it all works. All in all, not a bad beginning for our signal party.

If anyone out there is in San Fran on 9 June, hop the morning ferry to Angel Island in the bay and come visit our living history display.


Ken Dombroski
Signal Sgt.

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